by Mark Mauldin, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Washington County

Calling all watermelon producers, commercial growers to gardeners. Planting season is just around the corner. As you plan your plantings don’t forget about the Big Melon Contest at the Panhandle Watermelon Festival. The festival and the contest have been summer-time staples in the Central Panhandle for decades. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your skills as a grower and a shot at some serious prize money.

To make the contest fun for growers of all types of watermelons, a winner and first runner-up will be recognized for each variety of melon entered in contest*, with the heaviest melon in the class winning $50 and the first runner-up $25. In addition to the variety classes, there will be a $300 grand prize paid for the overall heaviest melon in the contest and $200 for the first runner-up.

New for 2024, the Junior Jubilee Contest is a melon growing competition open only to kids 18 and under. To participate in the Junior Jubilee Contest, kids must sign-up this Spring (3/4/24 – 3/22/24). Upon signing up, kids will receive seeds and growing guide. Through the Spring the kids will grow their own melons and then bring their 2 biggest back, to enter the contest at the festival. All kids who bring a melon back for the contest will be recognized at the melon auction and prizes will be given for the 10 biggest melons, including a $200 grand prize for the biggest melon. For more information or to enter the Junior Jubilee Contest contact the Washington County UF/IFAS Extension Office. Click the link below for more details about the Junior Jubilee Contest.

Junior Jubilee Contest Info

There is no cost to enter a melon in the contest. However, melons entered in the contest are donated to the festival and will be sold via auction. Proceeds of the auction will go to help off-set the costs of next year’s festival. All contest melons will be on display during the festival and their variety, weight, and grower will be announced during the auction.

The 2024 Panhandle Watermelon Festival will be Friday June 21st and Saturday June 22nd in Chipley, FL. The Friday night concert festivities will be held at Jim Trawick Park and Saturday’s events (including the melon auction) will be at the Washington County Ag Center. The auction will begin at 12 noon on Saturday.

Melons being entered in the contest will need to be delivered to the Washington County Ag Center prior to the festival. Melons will be received and weighed-in at the Ag Center Wednesday 6/19 between 8am and 4pm and Thursday 6/20 between 8am and 7pm central time. If you have melons that you would like to enter in the contest but are unable to deliver during the specified times, contact Mark Mauldin prior to 6/19 to make arrangements. Pick-up may be possible, to the extent practical, provided arrangements are made in advance.

The Washington County Ag Center is located at 1424 Jackson Ave. Chipley, FL 32428.

If you have any questions regarding the contest, contact Mark Mauldin at the UF/IFAS Extension, Washington County Office (850-638-6180 or

Photo of contest packet.
Julie McConnell